NANTICOKE — When Pittston Area botched a snap with six minutes to go, it looked as if the Patriots’ chances of earning their second win of the season were in doubt.
And after Nanticoke’s Dawson Hughes scored on a 19-yard touchdown three plays later to put the Trojans up 27-20, Pittston Area would have to stage another two-minute drill to find the end zone with 2:44 to play. Fortunately for the Patriots, the ball just bounced their way.
Pittston Area’s Kevin Krawczyk made a juggling catch between defenders and went 19 yards for a touchdown with less than a minute to play, and quarterback Walter Coles scampered in for the two-point conversion as Pittston Area (2-6) took down Nanticoke (3-5), 28-27 in thrilling fashion Friday night.
Coles found Krawczyk streaking across the middle and tried to fit the ball in a tight window between Nanticoke defenders. The ball was tipped first by Krawczyk, then a handful of Trojan players, eventually winding up back in the hands of the Patriot receiver. Krawczyk was able to speed into the end zone.
“There’s nothing better than that in the world,” Krawczyk said. “That’s classic high school football.”
Coles and the Patriots knew they wanted to try and throw on Nanticoke.
“We were just going with the pass game today and trying to execute,” Coles said. “They covered it last second and tipped it up. It was a miracle play and it was crazy.”
Still down one after the score, Pittston Area opted to go for the win instead of trying to tie the game with an extra point. Coles rolled to his right on a run-pass option, and went in for the score untouched.
Coles and the Patriots came out trying to exploit Nanticoke’s pass defense. In the first half, the Pittston Area junior had 154 yards passing. He finished with 279 yards through the air and a pair of touchdowns. Krawczyk finished with 103 yards receiving, but it was fellow receiver Rich Wallace who had the night for the Patriots.
Wallace hauled in a 32-yard touchdown for Pittston Area’s first score. He tallied seven catches for 134 yards. The junior was also a force on Pittston Area’s defense, playing tight coverage from his secondary spot.
“These guys are all still juniors and gaining experience,” Pittston Area head coach Jim Norris said. “Some of that is starting to come out. We have guys developing in the organization and it takes time.”
Nanticoke did everything it could to try and secure its fourth in of the season. The Trojans rushed for 248 yards behind the legs of Eric Jeffries and Dawson Hughes. The duo combined for 222 yards on the night.
Facing a 14-8 deficit at halftime, Nanticoke marched down the field to take the lead when quarterback Matt Wrubel hit receiver Matt Piontkowski for a 9-yard touchdown. The two teams traded 1-yard touchdown runs by the quarterbacks to make the score 21-20 in favor of Nanticoke.
It was Pittston Area’s next possession when the punt snap sailed over the head of Alex Haas to set up Hughes’ 19-yard run. Going for two to try and make the score 29-20, Nanticoke’s run was stuffed by the interior of Pittston Area’s defense, leaving it just a 7-point game with less than three minutes to play.
That’s when the Patriots found some magic and marched 65 yards, culminating in the game-winning touchdown. It was an emotional win for the Patriots, Coles said.
“We can’t give up and we’ll never give up,” Coles said. “We were able to drive down the field and we executed.”
The second win marks the first time the Patriots had two or more wins in a season since 2014.
“We’ve showed a lot of resilience all year,” Norris said. “There’s a lot of intangibles in the locker room this year that helps us win games like this. Maybe we didn’t have that in past year, but we’ve worked hard on it.”
Pittston Area 28, Nanticoke 27
PA — Rich Wallace 32 pass from Walter Coles (Mike Mikitish kick), 5:44
PA — Keemar Woodruff 8 run (Mikitish kick), 11:53
N — Matt Wrubel 1 run (Eric Jeffries run), 8:31
N — Matt Piontkowski 9 pass from Wrubel (Ricky Klepadlo kick), 8:51
PA — Coles 1 run (run failed), 6:08
N — Wrubel 1 run (run failed), 6:08
N — Dawson Hughes 19 run (run failed), 2:44
PA — Kevin Krawczyk 19 pass from Coles (Coles run), 0:53
RUSHING — PA, Coles 6-37 TD, Woodruff 11-23 TD, Trevor Tigue 4-13, Dylan Spurlin 3-2, Wallace 1-0. N, Jeffries 19-126, Hughes 18-96 TD, Walters 2-26, Wrubel 8-(-12) 2TD.
PASSING — PA, Coles 16-28-0-279 2TD. N, Wrubel 6-12-0-47 TD.
RECEIVING — PA, Wallace 7-134 TD, Krawczyk 6-103 TD, Woodruff 3-42. N, Mark Walters 2-22, Piontkowski 2-15 TD, Dylan Szychowski 2-10.
INTERCEPTIONS — PA, Woodruff 1-15.
MISSED FGs — None.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick